I knew there was a reason I don’t really like these things:
One of the key themes emerging from the study, as well as from earlier research into reading behavior, is that people in general and students in particular read in a variety of ways. Sometimes they immerse themselves in a text, reading without interruption. Sometimes they skim a text to get a quick sense of the content or the argument. Sometimes they search a text for a particular piece of information or a particular topic. Sometimes they skip back and forth between two or more sections of a text, making comparisons. And sometimes they take notes, make marginal annotations, or highlight passages as they read. Reading is, moreover, a deeply personal, highly idiosyncratic activity, subject to all kinds of individual quirks. Every reader is unique.
Because we’ve come to take printed books for granted, we tend to overlook their enormous flexibility as reading instruments. It’s easy to flip through the pages of a physical book, forward and backward. It’s easy to jump quickly between widely separated sections, marking your place with your thumb or a stray bit of paper or even a hair plucked from your head (yes, I believe I’ve done that). You can write anywhere and in any form on any page of a book, using pen or pencil or highlighter or the tip of a burnt match (ditto). You can dog-ear pages or fold them in half or rip them out. You can keep many different books open simultaneously, dipping in and out of them to gather related information. And when you just want to read, the tranquility of a printed book provides a natural shield against distraction. Despite being low-tech – or maybe because of it – printed books and other paper documents support all sorts of reading techniques, they make it easy to shift seamlessly between those techniques, and they’re amenable to personal idiosyncrasies and eccentricities.
E-books are much more rigid. Refreshing discrete pages of text on a fixed screen is a far different, and far less flexible, process than flipping through pliant pages of fixed text. By necessity, a screen-based, software-powered reading device imposes navigational protocols and routines on the user, allowing certain patterns of use but preventing or hindering others. All sorts of modes of navigation and reading that are easy with printed books become more difficult with electronic books – and even a small degree of added difficulty will quickly frustrate a reader. Whereas a printed book adapts readily to whoever is holding it, an e-book requires the reader to adapt to it.
I can imagine that the e-book readers will end up being integrated as just another tool among the many others that students and others will end up using. Certainly when the number of books and papers you need to consult rises above one, an e-book reader becomes just another information provision artifact (and paper has worked well for rather a long time!).
The researchers provide an illuminating case study showing how important cognitive mapping can be:
[One student] used kinesthetic cues such as folded page corners and the tangible weight of the printed book to help him locate content quickly. He told us that “after I’ve spent some time with the physical book, I know … exactly how to open it to the right page. … I kind of visually can see where I am in the book.” His physical experience with the text changed dramatically when he began using his Kindle DX: He lost these kinesthetic cues and spent much more time hunting for information than he had previously done. He stopped using the Kindle DX for his assigned academic readings because he wanted to remain as productive and efficient as he was before he received his Kindle DX.
Actual empirical evidence on alternate pedagogical methods is important!
The third episode of our Scibernia science podcast is now live, kicking and online for your pleasure. Just press play below or click ‘Download’ to save it for later.
In this episode:
- What neuroscientist and Memory Lab curator Prof Shane O’Mara plans to do with all the data collected during the recent Science Gallery exhibition.
- A debunking of Moon myths with Astronomy Ireland’s Lee Hurley.
- The answer to the question on everyone’s lips: Do Venus fly-traps poo? UCC lecturer and Communicate Science blogger Eoin Lettice talks us through his role in the ‘I’m A Scientist, Get Me Out of Here‘ student engagement project.
- What Prof Jim Al-Khalili has in common with Sinead O’Connor in the BBC astrophysics programme ‘Everything and Nothing’, and why Prof Brian Cox‘s ‘Wonders’ reminds us of 1990s pop videos.
- Upcoming events, including student science festival SciFest and a talk about atom-smashing by CERN’s Dr Stephen Myers.
- News from Ireland and abroad, including how robots are set to become more human-like and the latest developments in ‘lab on a chip’ technology.
How does our memory work? What’s the difference between remembering how to ride a bike and recalling people’s names? Is it possible to improve your memory? An exhibition in the Science Gallery is looking for the answers, writes BRIAN O’CONNELL
REMEMBER A NAME but can’t match it with a face? Good with numbers but useless at childhood recollections? Led by Prof Shane O’Mara of Trinity College, Memory Lab is a month-long experience at Science Gallery in Trinity College, which invites the public to take part in a range of scientific experiments aimed at examining how our memory works.
In the new Hollywood thriller, ‘Limitless’, Bradley Cooper plays a failing writer who uses a top-secret ‘smart drug’ to unlock his brain’s potential. SYLVIA LEATHAM asks TCD neuroscientist Prof Shane O’Mara for a reality check on how the brain works.
DICK AHLSTROM, Science Editor
DO YOU forget names seconds after an introduction? If so, then come along to the Science Gallery where you can participate in experiments in an exhibition called Memory Lab.
More here: http://sciencegallery.com/events
FIRE, GOAT, PLUM, SUMP, VANE, HAIR, FARM…
How come you can recall your first day at school vividly but won’t remember this list of words when you get to the bottom of this paragraph? Why are some of us memory champions while others have heads like sieves? Is our ability to remember nature or nurture?
TO PARTICIPATE IN MEMORY LAB YOU WILL NEED TO FILL IN A CONSENT FORM AND FOLLOW EACH EXPERIMENT’S PROTOCOL.
PLEASE NOTE RESEARCH RESULTS TAKE TIME TO PROCESS AND WE WILL NOT BE ABLE TO GIVE YOU SPECIFIC INDIVIDUAL FEEDBACK AFTER EVERY EXPERIMENT. TWO SECOND MEMORY
WHAT DID THAT ROAD SIGN JUST SAY?
Can you recall an image or a name you have just been exposed to and will youremember the details tomorrow? Howdoes time effect your ability to recall?In this task we will test your Visual Iconic Memory.
HEAD LIKE A SIEVE?
REMEMBER THAT PHONE NUMBER YOU JUST LOOKED UP?
In this test we will measure your Short Term Memory based on the number of words and digits you can recall over a short time span. Compare yourself to others and find out if you really do have a head like a sieve.
ARE YOU QUICK AT ADDINGNUMBERS IN YOUR HEAD?
Working Memory is the ability of the prefrontal cortex in your brain to store information needed to perform everyday tasks. We may also need to learn new information quickly and discard what is no longer relevant—a process known as updating. Working Memory is known to diminish with age. In this experiment you can test your Working Memory with number sequences.
DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM?
KNOW THE FACE BUT HAVE NO IDEA OF THE NAME?
Remembering names and faces requires your memory to make associations between different pieces of information. This experiment tests your Associative Memory, which involves an area in the temporal lobe of your brain called the Hippocampus. Assess your own capacity for mental association through pairing faces with correct names.
Why are we better at recalling recurring situations in our lives? What triggers the brain to remember certain details and not others? The ability to remember events encountered previously is a classic test of memory.
SAVED BY THE MEMORIES
WHY DO HUMANS HAVEMEMORIES?
How and why has the human memory evolved? Research suggests that we evolved the capacity to remember in order to avoid potential predators and remember the location of our food sources. Your brain is well equipped at processing survival related information. In this experiment we will find out if your memory serves you well in threatening scenarios.
RUSHING OUT THE DOOR ANDFORGOT TO TURN THE IRON OFF?
How is your recall affected bymulti-tasking? In this ‘pen and paper’ testwe look at your Dual Tasking Memory andby over-loading your brain with too muchinformation we are putting it into a morestressed state. How will you perform underpressure?
SMELL OF SUMMER RAIN: WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER?
Certain smells can trigger particularly vivid memories and associations for different people. Research suggests that our memory for different odours may be better then our memory for other sensory information. Our sense of smell can decline with age and so does our memoryfor odours. This experiment will test yourmemory for particular smells.
A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE
This exploratory survey asks you to recall your earliest memory and rate a range of criteria associated with it. Share your early memories on Science Gallery’s memory wall!
STRESSED OUT OF MY MIND
Cortisol is a hormone involved in our response to stress. Levels of cortisol in our blood fluctuate throughout the day but are particularly high when individuals are stressed. Research suggests that this inturn can influence functional memory performance. By donating a sample of your saliva for cortisol measurement we’ll investigate if there is any correlation between cortisol levels, stress and memory.
A BRAIN FIT FOR MEMORIES
Recent research shows that exercise maybe a powerful protective strategy against dementia and age-related cognitive decline. It may also enhance cognitivefunction in young healthy adults. Test your cardio respiratory fitness at MEMORYLAB to assess whether your performancein cognitive tasks correlates with your physical fitness.